In all of my recent learning about Social Media and the potential benefits of integrating its use into both health care and education I had not yet grasped the purpose of the hashtag. Some people seem to love them while others mock them but, whether I use hashtags or not, I do need to understand them. Their use is clearly summed up in The Beginner’s Guide to the Hashtag, “On Twitter, the pound sign (#) turns any word or group of words that directly follow it into a searchable link. This allows you to organize content and track discussion topics based on those keywords.” Clicking on a hashtag allows you to see all of the posts that mention the subject in real time.
There is no preset list of hashtags. If you want to use a specific hashtag you can search directory services like tagdef.com, twubs.com and hashtags.org to see if it is already being used. If not, just put the hash (#) before your word or series of words (no spaces or punctuation marks) and you will have created a brand new hashtag. There are many directories and compilations of hashtags with a specific focus. The Complete Guide to Twitter Hashtags for Education lists over 200 hashtags categorized into topics of interest to educators. 14 Twitter Hashtags for Nursing Students to Monitor shares several hashtags that could support students’ studies and broaden their understanding of the profession.
So, are hashtags just a fun and trendy thing to use or do they have a real purpose? Twitter is a busy place and hashtags are a way to aggregate tweets, categorizing messages with specific words or phrases. Anibel Paheco posted 7 Ideas for Using Hashtags in the Classroom including such suggestions as creating threads for class discussions and creating class messaging systems. For those planning to use Twitter as a teaching tool, the understanding and use of hashtags seems essential.